As the filmmaking team of “The Woman King” travels to Brazil to promote the historical epic, Viola Davis and her husband and co-producer Julius Tenon celebrate the success of the no. 1 debut at the box office, grossing $19 million domestically.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on September 10, followed by its opening in theaters one week later. It is one of the rare films that has received similar positive reception from critics and the general public, with 95% of critics and 99% of the audience on Rotten Tomatoes. It even earned “A+” cinema points.
Davis maintains that the story “The Woman King” can reach all audiences, not just black women.
“There was a feeling that our stories were not universal and could not reach the white man or woman or the Hispanic man or woman,” Davis says. diverse. “I feel the human stories are for everyone, not just for black consumption.”
Davis says a white woman asked her just today, “Does it surprise you that your story can reach me as a white woman?”
She answered, “No.” “I know my story can reach you where your story can reach me. The only one that surprises you is you.”
Davis appeared as an action star in a film that blends large-scale historical epics such as “Braveheart” (1995) and “Gladiator” (2001), both of which are Academy Award winners for Best Picture. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythwood, the size and brevity of the film is a seamless effort, featuring noteworthy performances, along with an impressive team of craftspeople, including composer Terrence Blanchard and cinematographer Polly Morgan. In the film, Davis plays Nanisca, a valiant warrior and general in the Agojie, the all-female warrior unit that has been protecting the West African kingdom during the 17th and 19th centuries.
Davis has won an Academy Award for “Fences” (2016) and is the most nominated black actress with four nominations. For comparison, 14 black women have been nominated for Best Actress, with one winner, Halle Berry (for 2001’s Monster’s Ball). Meryl Streep has more nominations in this category, with 17, with two small busts.
The film becomes a showcase for the next generation of black women in Hollywood, particularly Thoso Mbedo, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atem and Jimmy Lawson. “It’s always about the next generation, and that’s our job in this life. It’s about running your man in the race and passing the baton on the great runner. But you have to be brave enough to run the race. You have to be brave enough to do both of the original content that will drive the narrative Davis says.
“Let’s be clear, Hollywood is all about the business,” says Tenon, who also stars in the film as Morrow. “If we are going to keep making these kinds of movies, they have to make money. We understand that.”
Read miscellaneous Interview with the producers of “The Woman King”.
How do you feel when you see a movie that you poured your heart and soul into so well at the box office?
Viola Davis: I feel like I never doubted that the “King Woman” would land because she landed with me. Landed with Gina. Landed with Julius. It is an undeniably powerful story. The way we see numbers today is not the way we see numbers. I think people have a tendency to say, we only represent a certain percentage of the box office. We know black women. We know they’ll bring the people they work with, the spouses and the families, and come back five or six times over the weekend. We’re in an industry that doesn’t see the power that black women have at the global box office.
Julius TennonThere is always a little fear of the unknown. Hollywood likes to have a formula in the way ideas are marketed. There is nothing wrong with that but when you do a movie like this, we know that people of color, especially black people, are hungry for this kind of content. And when you have a Viola presence, like you’ve had over these years, we know how to reach those audiences that the studios don’t follow.
Allies and black celebrities such as Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade and Octavia Spencer have bought movie theaters in communities that may have difficulty buying tickets to see the movie. Is this something you’d like to see more of going forward?
Davis: I will because in order to advance the narrative in terms of diversity and inclusion, it will require all of us to do it together. This is not a lone wolf-type fight. When you change cultural narratives, it takes people to come together to change them. You work alone in a vacuum.
tenon: What we understand is what the studio wants, and they want to show films. Hollywood is all about trade and if we’re going to be able to keep making these kinds of movies, they have to make money. Let’s be clear about that, and we understand that. We need to continue to support each other.
With the movie’s success, are there any discussions about a sequel, especially given the post-credits sequence with Sheila Atim?
tenon: Well, you know, it’s like we could [do a sequel]. We have not had any discussions on this topic yet.
Are you open to more if the studio wants more?
Davis: I’m open to more but let me tell you. You were already the greatest warrior on the battlefield. If we make a supplement, I hope I still have teeth [laughs]But yeah, I’m totally open to that. Wide open. Always.
#BoycottWomanKing popped up over the weekend with people who felt it didn’t address the Kingdom of Dahomey’s involvement in slavery. We don’t see that kind of complaint when a Christopher Columbus movie isn’t covering cultural genocide – what do you have to say to those who feel he overlooks those parts of history?
Davis: First of all, I agree with Jenna Prince-Bythewood saying that you won’t win an argument on Twitter. We entered the story where the kingdom was in flux, at a crossroads. They were looking for some way to keep their civilization and kingdom alive. They were not eliminated until the late 19th century. Most of the story is fictional. It must be.
tenon: We are now what we call “edutainment”. It’s history but we have to get a license. We have to entertain people. If we just told a history lesson, which we could get a good at, it would be a documentary. Unfortunately, people in theaters won’t be doing the same thing we saw this weekend. We didn’t want to be ashamed of the truth. The history is enormous and there are facts about that. If people want to know more, they can investigate further.
Davis: Part of the story that struck me as an artist is that these women are unwanted. They were recruited between the ages of eight and fourteen. Nobody wants to marry them. They were unruly. They were recruited by the king to fight for the kingdom of Dahomey. They were not allowed to marry or have children. Those who refused the call were beheaded. This is also part of the story. People really turn emotionally. I saw a TikTok video today of women in the bathroom of the AMC theater, and I don’t think they know each other. They were all cheering and meditating. This cannot be measured in words.
Interested in working together again as actors, like a rom-com or something that would showcase the chemistry you both have in common as artists?
tenon: If the right thing came, we would. We always talk about doing something on stage because we’re both actors, and it’s more profound on stage.
Davis: our life rom com [laughs]. It is really fun. We tell everyone when we come into the room, we bring fun.
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